I’ll tell you what hermits realize. If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you’ll come to understand that you’re connected with everything.
– Alan Watts
Alan Watts was a unique character in the topic of religion and spirituality. He was influenced by East
Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Buddhism, and by Taoist thought. Born a Christian, he left the Church and never became a member of another organized religion. He was different to other religious authorities in that he would espouse many different ways of finding yourself and your place in the universe.
To describe him in another way, when criticized by other Western practitioners of Buddhism, he simply stated, “A cat sits until it is done sitting, and then gets up, stretches, and walks away.” alanwatts.org
You have to love this guy!
Anyway, it is not necessarily the man I want to discuss today, I will write about him and his teachings in a later post, but his theories about us and the world in which we live. I came across the quote above a while ago and tried to think about what it really meant. It is easy sometimes, to just take these kinds of quotes at face value and never really delve too deeply into their meanings.
But I got fascinated with it and how it really connects to Buddhist thought. Of course their are many subtle facets to Buddhism that we can never know unless studied extensively, but I am talking about the underlying essence of it.
In another post, I will discuss the life of Buddha himself, but I will just give a brief explanation right now in order to put some meat onto the quote.
Who was the Buddha?
Gautama Buddha, also known as Siddhārtha Gautama, Shakyamuni, or simply the Buddha (as he will be known from here on out), was a thinker and one could even call a philosopher, whose teachings created the foundations of the religion we know of today called Buddhism. He also happened to be a prince of a pretty big kingdom, whose farther did everything he could to shelter him from the suffering and pain of the outside world.
The word Buddha means “awakened one” or “the enlightened one.” In most Buddhist traditions, Siddhartha Gautama is regarded as the Supreme Buddha of our age (Sanskrit: samyaksaṃbuddha).
Most scholars accept that he lived, taught and founded a monastic order around 2,500 years ago.
At the age of 29, as the story goes, the Buddha left his palace to meet his subjects. Despite his father’s efforts to hide the world outside the palace walls, the Buddha was said to have seen an old man. His driver explained to him that all people grew old, but this just fulled his curiosity more and so he ventured further. On these he encountered a diseased man, a decaying corpse, and an ascetic. These depressed him, and he initially strove to overcome aging, sickness, and death by living the life of an ascetic.
According to the early Buddhist texts, after realizing that meditative dhyana was the right path to awakening, but that extreme abstinence didn’t work, the Buddha discovered a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification.
the Buddha was famously seated under a pipal tree, now known as the Bodhi tree and after 49 days of meditation, at the age of 35, he is said to have attained Enlightenment.
When the Buddha awoke from his meditative state, he realized completely, the cause of suffering and the steps necessary to eliminate it. These discoveries became known as the “Four Noble Truths“, which are the core of Buddhist belief. Through mastery of these truths, a state of supreme liberation, or Nirvana.
I will be writing an article about Nirvana as soon as I have done the research. So far from what I can tell, it is more than what we think it to be. This is also true with Karma which will be another post. So many topics and not enough time:(
It is believed to be possible for any being. The Buddha described Nirvana as “the perfect peace of a mind that’s free from ignorance, greed, hatred and other states of affliction”.
So how does this relate to the quote?
The main connecting factor it is that, without meaning insult anyone here, the Buddha is the hermit in Alan Watts’ quote. He ran away to try and find out what suffering meant and to try and cure the world of its ills and temptations.
He managed to reach a state of Nirvana, and understood the way in which he was connected to the world. This is the the foundation for anyone to discover their spiritual world.
Great, so what about the spiritual world?
To put it bluntly, in order to find your spiritual world, you must forgo all material belongings and live a basic life as a hermit.
Well not exactly! Of course no one of us would realistically do this in the real world. We all have commitments, families, jobs all the things that really persuade us to continue living in our everyday lives.
However in my own opinion, I would say that the quote is really meant to be a marker along a path which you can
travel. I read it and think to myself that if I slowly became less worried about the latest phone, or what clothes will make me look better etc, the closer to nature I will become.
The closer I get to nature, the more likely it will be that I discover my spiritual world. The question then becomes, “what do I do when I have discovered it?”
The thing is, everyone will discover something slightly or radically different fro, everyone else. My spiritual world will be different from yours and yours from others.
It is not really the content of your spiritual world that matters to me. It is the fact that whatever it is, it connects us both together, and us to the universe. We are not so different but for the ways we interpret.
As quoted by a former monk who is now a guide at my place of work:
You have to take each day as it comes. Don’t think to far into the future, don’t think about things that have not yet happened and live for today.
Pretty good stuff there from Mr. Phet. I will add in all their details in their own author sections as soon as I can.
It is even more poignant when you consider that this is advice from someone living it everyday.
So let me know in the comments about the spiritual world that you have discovered, or are trying to find. I will be honest and say that my life is full of issues that if examined closely, really should not affect me. However as long as you can identify these issues, you can start to ignore them.
There is always meditation to help as well.
If you want to contact me about what you thought of this post and things I can do to improve, I would really appreciate it.